Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning and Golf

006This past Monday my husband and I volunteered to work at the Bi Lo Charity Golf Classic. They raised over $4 million dollars this year for different organizations. Golfers who hit a hole in one could win a brand new Lexus and those who were closest to the pin at certain holes would win a prize too.

I don’t play golf and have never been to a tournament before so this was a great experience (I love having new experiences!). I also learned a lot from this new experience so it made the whole day worthwhile.

First, I had never been to this golf community and golf course (Cliffs of Glassy, Landrum, SC) which I have heard about over the years. It is a pretty exclusive community and I’ve heard stories of how beautiful it was. When we arrived at the gates, we learned that the golf course was actually 4 miles up the mountain. On the way up the mountain we saw a bobcat cross the road. I’m a sucker for wildlife!

We were assigned to be hole watchers at Hole 13 (which I found out later was the signature hole of the whole golf course). On one side, there was beautiful landscaping all around with boulders, trees, and flowers all around. We were able to set up our lawn chairs in the shade as we “worked.” On the other was the edge of the mountain with an awesome view for miles away. Many golfers stopped to take pictures when they arrived at this hole and I offered to take many group shots for them.

I learned a lot about golf and thought about how it could apply to learning. Here is what I learned:

1. A mulligan is an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard. It is a “do over.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our students were allowed a mulligan? And what about teachers who flub an observation? Or even a lesson that didn’t go over well with students? There are lots of opportunities in our classrooms that would benefit from a mulligan.

2. How to drive a golf cart. Even though no one asked us if we could drive a golf cart (It looked pretty simple and since people assumed we could, we didn’t dare say we couldn’t!) we jumped in the golf cart assigned to us. Then we were told to go to hole 13 but we didn’t have a map so someone pointed us in the direction we should go. When we pulled over to let someone else lead so we could follow, our cart just stopped working. We had to get the golf pro when we thought the cart was broken only to find out that we had knocked it into neutral. How embarrassing! By this time, we had lost our leader and was left to hunt for hole 13. Eventually we found a groundskeeper, who seeing the panic in our eyes, offered to show us where the hole was if we wanted to follow his golf cart. Sometimes we assume our students know how to use a tool because it is so easy for us. Then we assume they know how to reach the goals we set without giving them the appropriate instructions or maps.

3. Captain’s Choice is a tournament format in which all players in a group (foursome or otherwise) hit a shot from the tee, and each subsequent location, always playing from the position of the best or preferred ball until the ball is holed. At first I wondered why they were picking up balls and moved them. When I once played, my score was about 48 strokes and that was just on the first hole!! This makes much better sense and keeps the game going. Wouldn’t it be great to work this way in the classroom especially if we saw our student’s getting frustrated with trying over and over again and just needed a little support?

4. How golfers “read” the course. I watched many squat down and really observe the ups and downs of the green. Wouldn’t it be great if we could teach kids how to read social situations and the ups and downs of interactions!

5. Etiquette on the golf course. There are dos and don’ts on the golf course that is expected from all but we had never really been on a golf course (except once 30 years ago). We had to put our cell phones on silent and we whispered when people were on the green. Golf carts stopped nearby when people were near the hole. Sometimes we expect our students to know simple rules of etiquette but because they come from different types of environments and cultures, we need to review these rules so everyone can be on the same page.

6. Appreciation of nature was held by all. Every group that arrived at our hole remarked about the beauty of the land and the view. Everyone remarked about how lucky we were to be stationed at this hole. Since I didn’t really know what the other holes looked like, I was happy that others told us that we were in the best spot. I wonder how our students would feel if we told them this about the classes they were in and how it would affect them.

Maybe playing golf is really a lot like learning in the classroom in more ways than one. If you play golf, can you add other instances that would also apply?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original photo ‘Hole 13’ by Patricia Hensley

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